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Why You May Need to Exercise Less


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Exercise is a major component of a healthy lifestyle, and the benefits of regular physical activity are well established. When adopting a Paleo lifestyle, modifying your fitness routine to include more high intensity exercise can bring great benefits to energy, body composition, and overall fitness.

However, there are many people who take their physique and physical fitness to an extreme level, particularly in the Paleo community. Certain styles of exercise take the participant to a state of physical exhaustion on a regular basis, which may do more harm than good.

While a consistent, high intensity workout routine may provide some benefits for those people looking to lose body fat and increase their strength and fitness, there is a fine line between training hard and overtraining. While running fast and lifting heavy may be major components of an active Paleo lifestyle, engaging in these physically demanding activities too regularly or too intensely can contribute to many different symptoms of overtraining.

Overtraining goes beyond just excessive “chronic cardio” or too many hours spent at the gym. Certain high-intensity exercise routines may push the body’s stress response too far, leading to a cascade of biochemical responses that can cause serious damage to one’s health in both the short and long term.

While short, intense workouts can be great for inducing fat loss, increasing aerobic capacity, and reducing risk for cardiovascular disease, excessively intense exercise can cause a variety of health problems, especially for those dealing with other concurrent stressors such as autoimmune disease, gut dysbiosis, or adrenal fatigue.

Overtraining has been shown to affect blood levels of important neurotransmitters such as glutamine, dopamine and 5-HTP, which can lead to feelings of depression and chronic fatigue. The stress caused by intense, excessive exercise can negatively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, possibly causing conditions such as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is known to cause depression, weight gain, and digestive disfunction along with a variety of other symptoms. As we know, high stress in general can cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, and the stress caused by excessive, intense exercise is no exception.

Another major effect that extreme exercise has on our bodies is an immediate increase in cortisol, the hormone that is released when the body is under stress.

Heavy-resistance exercises are found to stimulate markedly acute cortisol responses, similar to those responses found in marathon running. Chronically high levels of cortisol can increase your risk for a variety of health issues, such as sleep disturbances, digestive issues, depression, weight gain, and memory impairment. Excess cortisol also encourages fat gain, particularly around the abdomen.

When a goal of exercise is to lose weight or improve energy, overtraining can clearly be a major barrier to achieving those goals.

Overtraining can also have harmful effects on the immune system. Research has shown that the cellular damage that occurs during overtraining can lead to nonspecific, general activation of the immune system, including changes in natural killer cell activity and the increased activation of peripheral blood lymphocytes. This hyperactivity of the immune system following intense overtraining can possibly even contribute to the development of autoimmune conditions.

This type of nonspecific immune response is associated with symptoms such as chronic fatigue, weight loss, decreased appetite, and sleep changes. Altered immune status is also known to affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and may be responsible for the hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction and hypothyroidism known to occur in overtrained athletes.

Mark Sisson talks about the different signs of overtraining, which may be more common in endurance training but is nonetheless possible in high intensity training as well.

Feeling ill or rundown, losing muscle mass, gaining fat, and constant exhaustion can all be signs of excessive exercise of any type. Not only is this counterproductive to most people’s fitness and health goals, but it is also a sign of sickness.

In the path to better health, any activity that makes you more fatigued and more prone to infection is definitely something to be avoided.

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So does this mean you should quit CrossFit, or stop pushing towards your weightlifting goals? Not necessarily.

Here are a few techniques to avoid overtraining while still enjoying high intensity exercise:

  1. Reduce the frequency. While pushing yourself hard at the gym is not inherently problematic, doing it too often during the week is overtraining. High intensity, high stress exercise should be limited to two or three times a week, especially for those who are dealing with other health issues such as autoimmune conditions or digestive troubles. Compounding those stressors with extra stress from your exercise routine will not leave you healthier, and can easily cause you to become more sick.
  2. Get adequate rest. I’ve written before about how important sleep quality is for health. Not only is taking breaks from exercise important, but getting adequate sleep to allow recovery from intense exercise is vital to avoiding the overtraining syndrome. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, particularly on the days you train. Interestingly, one symptom of overtraining is disturbance of sleep, so if you’re feeling restless and having trouble sleeping through the night, you may want to reconsider the intensity of your training schedule.
  3. Mix it up. While high intensity exercise may be ideal for losing body fat and improving lean muscle mass, we know that high levels of cortisol can cause the body to hold onto fat. For this reason, you may consider trying a type of exercise that can help modulate your cortisol levels. Some may knock yoga as being too easy to affect weight loss, but regular yoga practice is shown to reduce cortisol levels, which may help in reaching your weight and fitness goals. Instead of doing a fourth day of CrossFit, try doing a yoga class instead. You may find that this stress reducing exercise helps you recover more quickly from your more intense exercise schedule.
  4. Eat more carbohydrates. While cutting down carbohydrate consumption is often seen as the best way to decrease body fat, a combination of overtraining and low-carb eating can actually raise cortisol significantly and negatively impact immune function. There is also a possibility that very low carbohydrate (VLC) diets suppress thyroid function, a debate thoroughly discussed by Paul Jaminet on his blog. So if you’re regularly doing high intensity training and want to avoid symptoms of overtraining stress, don’t skimp on the carbs!
High intensity exercise can be a great way to improve body composition and enhance your general health, if done the right way.  As with all components of our lifestyle changes, the key is moderation and listening to your body.

If you choose to participate in these high intensity training programs, always use your best judgment and don’t let coaches or fellow athletes push you past your comfort zone.

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Join the conversation

  1. Thank you for the article. I have writing and blogging on this subject for a year now in regards to Hashimoto’s and Graves Disease. I have been a personal trainer for 30 years, diagnosed with Hashimotos in 2012, so I can personally attest to this 100%.

    My personal training has had to change over the past 10 years and now working with other people with thyroid disease and trying to get them to understand how important this is …can be challenging. Most of them are restricting good carbohydrates too much and over training because their Doctors are telling them they are eating too much and not exercising enough. This mis- information is causing many to suffer even more. SO thank you so much for your support for the autoimmune community,
    Raina Kranz ( Thyroid Trainer)

    • Raina: how can I contact you? I am deeply interested in knowing more about my thiroid condition and what can I do to improve my lifestyle, even though having this condition. I do not accept some answers I have been given lately by doctors. These answers are depressing, and invite people to do nothing but sit in the couch until they have no hair, an enormous waistline and no energy, Please, tell me where to contact you.

  2. Hi there. I have always had an active life style and eaten clean and organic, mostly proteins and low carbs. I used to be a mid-distance runner at my university’s team but for the last 6 months I got a membership from a gym club in order to lose my 9 pounds that I have always had in excess! I got professional support and followed the same diet with more protein. My trainning included 20 minutes of high intensity interval training and 50 minutes of weight lifting, 4-5 days per week. But day by day I realized that my body doesn’t burn fat, but muscles instead! Yes, the thing is my cortisol levels became sooo high as you mentioned in your text.

    My doctor reccommended me to walk and swim only, and maybe yoga. But I feel like since my body got used to trainning hard, it may lead gaining more weight. And I cannot estimate how to eat anymore.

    Any comments to help?

    • I can’t really give weight loss advice. But that last bit about your doctor’s recommendations rang true with me. I have not had a doctor since beginning paleo/crossfit in 2009 who didn’t try to steer me back to classic cardio and eating of whole grains. Bless their tenacious clinging to dogma, but I have never felt better nor had better blood numbers. If I could have guided myself in those early months I would have said to drink more water, get more sleep… perhaps find a new doctor.

    • Who told you the 9 pounds was in excess? In excess to what?

      Exercise related cortisol adds to other cortisol. Get rid of stress in other life areas.

  3. 5’9″ 145 pounds when I started Crossfit 1.4 years ago. Today I am 165 pounds. Am I more fit? Yes. Is the scale continuing to go up? Yes. It alarms me.

    I have hashimoto’s thyroid and am on Synthroid but I don’t blame this on my thyroid only.


    I believe I have figured it out but would like some opinion. I was on VERY low carb, only sweet potatoes at night and didn’t gain weight. 6 months ago I cut out all carbs and was strict paleo and my weight just has been piling on- 10 pounds.

    The last few weeks I’ve added rice and sweet potatoes back in. I weighed in at 162 this week. I’d like to stay around 155-157 which keeps me at a size 6. I’ve cut my crossfit workouts to 2-3x a week with 2 days of spinning and 2 days off.

    I think there is something to do with the conversion of T4 to T3 and needing a clean carb. I didn’t have this weight problem when all I did was spin class.

    I eat white rice a couple of times a week and sweet potatoes on the alternate.


  4. I used to do field hockey and we would honestly train for 2-3 hours each day. Our tryouts were 4 hours longs! In the off season, I would become sad but not extremely sad. When I quit altogether and stopped exercising, I became really depressed (I didn’t even realize it until I had eight mental breakdowns in one month and nothing particularly bad was happening in my life. I would become anxious and over-analyze things and just not feel myself. It started getting to the point where I would wake up in the middle of the night fretting over how someone gave me a mean look five days ago).
    I realized that movement is a big part of my life that helps me stop thinking for a little while but I also learned that exercise also increases cells in the hippocampus (the place that regulates emotions) but they are inhibited. So when I’m not exercising, those cells get activated and my emotions go into over drive. I’m going to try and start incorporating exercise into my life a bit more but not to a ridiculous extent.

  5. My hobby is training and running half-marathons. I study exercise research and read training books written by leading coaches to achieve my goals. (Knock on wood, I am injury free and in good health overall after 32 years of running. Bury me in my running shoes!) HIIT has its documented place in improving certain aspects of cardio-vascular fitness but all of the studies I’ve read about showed that no more than two times/week was beneficial and three was too much, i.e., not only did the athletes studied not improve, they did worse. (The athletes studies were runners or cross-country skiers and college-aged.) It is unfortunate the nuances of HIIT frequency is often discovered after catastrophic health issues occur.

    • Why would you want “cardiovascular fitness”? What do you use it for? I mean, apart from running 13.1 miles for no good reason?

      “Cardiovascular fitness” is a scam. It’s akin to juggling fitness. It only helps you juggle better. It does nothing to improve your non-juggling periods.

  6. I was a workout junkie. 3 hours plus at the gym high intensity workouts. Endorphin high fixes. My adrenals crashed, my thyroid crashed, started to gain weight but lose my mind too. I got addicted to exercise. It’s been 7 years since I was told I had a thyroid issues. Weight lose has been a struggle. Currently found out about AIP diet and Paleo diet could help. I on multiple supplements for all my leaky gut autoimmune issues going on. Getting better but I think I did a lot of damage before I relaxed how to correct it and that what I was doing was wrong. Doctors did not listen to me when I told them I was gaining weight, not losing any. Their advice for me was to exercise more and eat less. Well… I listened thinking it was just me… And I did more damage. Currently I am losing weight. I gained 40 plus pounds TRYING to lose the weight. I am having better results eating right now…. But I do really miss my exercise, just afraid to start and do more damage rather than continue to heal. Not sure where I should begin again or how slow I should start.

    • Our experiences are similar. I too had leaky gut…took 6 months to heal using natural remedies. I have many food allergies so I eat very clean, whole food and make sure I get a solid balance of protein, carbs and good fats. If you haven’t done so already, get your hormones checked. My progesterone was through the roof and my estrogen was non-existent. My cortisol was sky high and night and there was none in the AM. With some natural remedies, I’m feeling human again and the weight gain has stopped. I was doing a 6 day split in the gym for 2 hours a day. Now I do a 3-4 day split and SUP other days…Yoga from time to time. It’s all about balance. Hormone clog can cause huge issues so that’s the first thing you should attack, along with your gut issues. Good luck to you!!!!

      • So, how do you and where do you get all your hormones tested like you did? I want to punch my MD in the nose for telling me, “I bet my house, that if you just joined a fitness center, you would lose weight”.! I eat super clean, so that is not the issue!

        • For hormone testing, try a naturopath. I think you can also do some mail order hormone testing. The Hormone Cure book is also helpful for more of a DIY approach. http://www.saragottfriedmd.com/

          You didn’t mention in your post, but are you having difficulty with weight loss and/or other health challenges?

          Exercise is also needed for normalizing hormones- my husband sees an ND who specializes in hormone replacement, and they focused on diet, stress management, and targeted exercise to normalize his hormones as much as possible before resorting to taking drugs for hormone management.

          Weight lifting 2-3x/week heavy to moderately heavy, sprints or high intensity exercise 1-2x/week, and walking, stretching/yoga is most effective. Preferable to do high intensity exercise in the morning as it can raise cortisol too much if done late in the day.

          If you cortisol is crashed though (Adrenal Reset Diet has some good info on this, or any adrenal book is probalby good), then easy exercise like walking, gentle yoga, easy swimming is needed while your body repairs itself.

          Chris’ post is mostly about OVER exercising, particularly really intense exercise like crossfit and especially in the context of low carb eating.

          Good luck!

  7. I’m training a 58 year old lady who is in good shape but is more and more obsessed with eating well – very little carb, small portions. Yet she wants me to push on with her on same intensity on the TRX. I can’t in my good conscience do that, as I’m well aware she’s not eating enough for the kind of workout, but she refuses to own up to her dieting (she insists it’s just sensible eating), she is not looking as good with sunken face, but she’s so happy with what she saw as weight loss!

  8. I have been doing weight training and running I don’t consider my excercising to be intense. I have had a personal trainer for awhile now also probable a year. Since all this excercise whilst at work I am having trouble staying awake whilst sitting down. It all seems to coincide with the beginning of the excercising. What can I do

  9. Nothing has done more damage to my body over the years than exercise. From muscle ruptures to chronic tendonitis to sprains to stiff necks, to the absolute worst: cortisol-induced insomnia and depression that went on for 20 years, during which no physician, including sleep specialists and psychiatrists, suggested I might be exercising too much and in fact suggested I do MORE. I had to figure this all out myself. Once I cut my exercise WAY back, my sleep and mood normalized completely, although the process took several weeks. Today I might walk or ride a bike for 30 minutes, and I’ll do housework, but my days of heavy lifting, long runs, and any abnormal muscle activity (lifting 200 pounds or more over and over again is not normal) is history. I’m neither ripped nor toned now, but boy does it ever feel good to be happy and sleep well. 🙂

    • I have been concerned to push my body into high intensity aerobic exercise I had adrenal fatigue a couple of years ago, I now feel much better I started a boot camp exercise program and its only been less than a week and I can hardly relax at night , I sleep so agitated I feel exhausted I don’t think I’m helping my body I think I’m causing more damage but want someone’s honest opinion.

    • Mike,

      Glad you’ve been able to recover after so many years of suffering, and I’m glad to see so many others with similar experiences. Just last year I did only a few months of HIIT for 3 hours a week and my body started breaking down–coritsol through the roof, insomnia, elevated resting heart rate, chronic anxiety/panic attacks/agoraphobia and just horrible fatigue. Doctors couldn’t tell me what was going on so they prescribed a pill to mask the anxiety symptoms. I took months off from any physical activity except yoga, had to quit my job and over a year later am just now feeling normal again. Getting back into HIIT once a week along with yoga and other gentle exercise and movement, hoping this is the right formula to get fit but not tear my body down again.

    • Get toned doing 70% of max sets of bodyweight strength exercises following a throughout-the-day, Grease the Groove non-regimen. Push ups, pull ups, bodyweight squats. You’re on the right path.

    • Mike , good for you people don’t think about other factors that too much exercise can harm you ..Too much exercise can trigger your sympethetic nervous system to overdrive whuc can cause multiple symptoms in the body along with stress..I’m a witness to that and yes it can take weeks or months to recover from a damaged CNS..

  10. Hi!

    I believe that HIIT gave me panic attacks and I have been on antidepressants for 3 years now. The mystery was : why do not I get the attack immediately after exercise, but around midnight? I think the answer is: my cortisol levels are quite low during the day and high around midnight (or at least this is how I explain my nocturnal alertness). Also, even on antidepressants, after HIIT, I cannot sleep properly. And no, I do not exercise at night, usually around 3 pm.

  11. Have been to about ten doctors formy symptoms. They includebloated abdomen, low energy, bleary eyes,loss of balance,. In the past year I exercise every day on the recombinant bike 60 minutes daily.every day I exercise and I am usually tired.
    I never considered that fatigue was causing my symptoms.

  12. Hi all,

    I’m hoping anyone here could help me out. I run 2-3 mls, 2-4 times a week. Nothing exhaustive, or extreme. I’ve been doing it (on and off) since my teens. I’m 46 now, and sometimes I’ll have a very tired feeling an hour or so after the run. I feel fine during and immediately after, but as time goes by I run out of gas. I’m fatigued, weak, unfocused and have a general ache throughout my body.

    I take Norvasc at night, and Diovan during the day for HBP. They don’t seem to be the culprit since I’ve taken them the past 5 years without this feeling. Also, last year I had a minor stroke with no deficits. Thanks for any help.


    • I had a similar feeling, I was getting winded after an hour or so of running and would stay tired for days after. Ended up being I didnt have enough potasium. Added bananas, raisins and tomatoes to my diet and I’m good again

  13. I accept that overtraining exists. But from my peer group I would say that it is very uncommon. From the last 4 years of crossfit… the people who show great dedication, hitting WOD’s with berserker-like intensity and show up 5+ times a week are the standout performers of the gym.
    Me (anecdotal data collected over 4 years):
    1 class per week. Multi-day muscle pain, no gains.
    2 classes per week. Slow degradation of maxes and cardio
    3 classes per week. Glacially slow gains in maxes and 5k run.
    4+ classes per week. Maxes are broken, 5k run loses whole minutes.

    The days that I feel the crappiest are pretty easy to spot. They include donuts, pancakes, french toast, a coffee with more carbs than a slice of angel food cake…

    • I’d be interested in seeing Chris’s short list of other far more common things to consider before overtraining. Seeing as we are constantly being told to drink more water and get more sleep, I would guess those get some top spots.

    • Actually, overtraining is not uncommon at all. I’ve trained for years at Gold’s, World Gym and elsewhere. People continually
      complain that their poundages recede and their energy levels drop, i think mostly because they never take breaks. Unless you have fantastic genetics many people overtrain.

      • Your observation hardly makes it valid. Lots of people at large gym chains don’t make gains or lose strength not because of overtraining but because they use faulty or inferior programming. There are plenty of evidence that, although real, the biochemistry of overtraining is rare.

    • Do you think it’s possible that the low frequency trainers you describe here can only train at lower frequencies because they are burnt out?

  14. Do you think one occurrence of excessive exercise could cause these negative effects? I ran a tough mudder 10 months ago and wasn’t prepared for it, got sick 6 weeks later and I’m still not well. Saw 14 doctors since but no one can figure it out. It’s probably just “chronic fatigue syndrome”.

  15. Yes yes yes! I recently had to implement these very things – I’m an avid crossfitter, but deal with a chronic illness (hashimotos confirmed, and unconfirmed chronic lyme disease) which puts me more at risk for dealing with complications. I’ve been crossfitting on average 3 days a week the past couple years, but I added in a 4th day several months ago and between that and attending a new box whose WODs I found to be a lot longer than my previous WOD (the wods were consistently taking me on average 30-40 minutes to complete instead of my previous crossfit gym where the wods took me about 10-20 minutes), I started experiencing fat gain (per hydrostatic body fat testing- about 5 lbs worth in fact- went from 15% bodyfat to 20%- not cool.) when nothing else in my diet had changed. I thought it all through and came to the same conclusions you wrote about – I reduced my crossfit back to 3 days a week, and I started capping any wod I did at 20 minutes, even if I wasn’t done with the workout (which is tough to do! I always desire to finish). Lastly, when things like running or other purely cardio stuff was prescribed, I just did some heavy lifting instead like back squats or deadlifts. While I wasn’t super low carb previously like many are (although I eat no refined sugars or honey or anything else- all my “sweet” taste comes from whole fruits and stevia and very occasional organic corn tortillas), I could tell my body seemed to do really well with fruits and I felt that I was not digesting fats as well as I liked, so I chose to temporarily do a trial with a little less fat in my diet and more fruits (I know! contrary to much of the current stuff out there) but it seems to be what my body does well with it right now- since Crossfit really does seem to be a glycogen dependent workout I really have found the carbs to be imperative with these workouts- otherwise I feel like CRAP.

    Making those changes helped tremendously and put everything back to normal. After some blood testing I am seeing that I am dealing with some low grade adrenal fatigue and an taking Isocort for that, about 17-20 mg of cortisol a day while my adrenals heal, and my free T3 is also lower than it has been in the past, so I am back on my t3 medication once again as well- like I said since I have hashi’s and (I believe) lyme, I feel these conditions make me much more susceptible to these sorts of issues.

    So in summary, I still get to crossfit, but reining things in a bit here and there fixed the issues I was starting to have – no one wants to work their butt off at crossfit and suddenly find their waist line expanding and the number of kipping pullups you can do in a row falling. Not cool.

    Glad you posted this because it’s a little counter intuitive on the surface, but was definitely the answer for me as well!

  16. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos when I was 21, I am 46 now. Eight years ago, a friend and I trained for a marathon to lose weight. I only lost 10 pounds. I went to an endo, a different one as I had moved to a new city, and he said to me “well of course you didn’t lose weight. When your TSH is not stable and constantly changing due to any weight loss, you will not lose as long as that number is moving…yet it moves with weight loss. Cruel. Now I am trying once again and after 3 weeks of exercising 6 of 7 days a week I only lost about a pound. I try different things like just cardio, cardio with exercise without weights, gym with weights 3 days a week, gym with weights only 2 days a week and I chart EVERYTHING. I measure my weight every day, not to expect a drop every day, I am realistic. But you can see during the week my weight rise gradually, and over the weekend, when I rest more and less exercise, my weight drops a bit. The trend shows me that the exercise I am choosing is stressing my body. I have decided after reading this to go Paleo. I have a friend who also has Hashi who follows the principles and has done really well. How do I test for adrenal fatigue? I live in Mexico, is there a way to test cortisol levels at home? My wedding is in December and it just makes me cry to think of being the size I am now for that. Much of my weight is around my middle. 🙁 So frustrating.

  17. I’ve never been a fan of cardio or chronic cardio and my mind has changed a lot on how I think of exercise forever because of the book body by science.

  18. Hi Chris, Hi everyone.

    Hope that you are all feeling better and that your health is back.

    I am here to talk to you about my personnal experience and I will try to keep it short to avoid boring you.

    I am 33 years old man and used to be super fit and healthy.

    It all started in April 2012 – before that time i used to be very fit and exercise a lot 5 to 6 times a week – 2 hours.

    – Was doing Boxing, MMA, Silat, WeightLifting.

    April 2012 i was at the gym and while squatting – started to feel tired, nauseous and pale (probably was a vaso vagual).
    I went directly to the doctor and it was all fine.

    Symptoms after that day :

    – Anxiety attacks(never had before)
    – Extreme fatigue, brain fog and memory losses
    – Exercise intolerance / couldn’t perform 15 pushups without feeling dead tired (me who was preparing for competitions before that).
    – Issues sleeping and staying asleep
    – Muscle spasms
    – Intolerance to loud places.

    stayed this way for 3 4 months and then i started to feel better (80% ok) so i went back, step by step, to my old routine. Sustained it for 4 months and collapsed again.

    Since then Feb 2013 my issues are the same : if i exercise with high intensity i collapse – if i do cardio workouts (hit or running etc..) i collapse.
    The only thing i can sustain is 45 min of controlled weight lifting – if i cross the edge i cannot sleep and have very vivid dreams. No boxing or any martial arts as the load of explosivity just kills me for 2 days.

    Doctor results :

    EVERYTHING OK!!! Except one test – the 24h cortisol saliva test – very low in the morining – low at 12 – better at 3pm – low at 6 – good at night.
    What did the doc do about it? Nothing. Sent me back home.

    I then started researching and found some articles about adrenal fatigue – but it is obvious that this condition DO NOT exist.. no science at all behind it.

    So here i am today, with no answer to what i have and forced to control all the energy spendings that i do – sport, party, walks etc…

    Any of you please have any idea about this? Or know someone who lived the same?

    Many thanks in advance.

    • Hi Adel,
      Your story sounds identical to mine. (i was shocked when i saw yours.)

      I am 32, was very much into training, (weight lifting including squats, dead lifts, and usually always full body work outs), as well as having played competitive soccer my whole life.

      In may 2012, after playing a soccer game on friday, and worked out monday, wednesday and the next friday, i felt progressively worse after each workout, to the point where i had to walk out of work on the friday afternoon due to nausea, total inability to concentrate, and what seemed like an anxiety attack (never had this before). I was off work for two weeks after visiting the emergency room, with what was diagnosed as concussion symptoms (due to my history of having had one before and also having headed a few balls during the soccer game played a week before). This seemed weird to me, as i dont remember any head trauma during the soccer game, but as i didn’t know what else it could be, i agreed doctors diagnosis. After two weeks went back to work, and was nowhere near ready to return, (i work as an engineer), and just the sound of my colleague talking beside me was enough to cause another anxiety attack and back to the emergency room. I was put off work another two weeks. Went to back again, and struggled immensely with work, could not concentrate and felt like throwing up if focused too much as well as total inability to be around any noise, loud or not. Had trouble deign groceries, watching tv, etc. Avoided working out for 3 months, then started back after seeing a neurologist who suggested light exercise would be good. Everytime i exercised i was back to the horrible feelings mentioned, as well as total having a very hard time sleeping, putting sentences together, and feeling extremely anxious for 3-4 days after working out.

      This problem has been on going for 2.5 years now, have seen a neurologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, who pretty just wanted to medicate me, although ritalin was essential for me to get back to work. I refused any sort of anti depressant, or anti anxiety meds except for tryptophan which did little.

      I told my family doctor that i also suffered from a decreased libido and difficulty achieving a full erection after working out as well, never had this problem either before and im sure everything is functional from physiological perspective, after all im only 32 and in great physical shape. So he sent me for blood tests which showed cortisol in the high range, but still normal for morning cortisol levels. What was high however, was free testosterone, and prolactin, so he is now sending to an endocronologist for further investigation. I have a feeling the edo appointment will not show anything conclusive but worth a shot, in its two weeks time.

      Anyway, i find it astonishing, how we have same profile, same age, same history of physical activity, same initial trigger, and same triggers after as well as symptoms.
      Ill keep you posted on the findings from the endo appointment..

      • Hi Kevin,

        Thanks for your answer, it is really weird to see someone having what i have – i was kind of feeling alone.. Chocking!

        Here is my email – [email protected].

        Please send me an email so we can discuss without annoying the rest 🙂

        waiting for your email.

        Thanks Kevin.

      • Hi, Kevin,

        I took me 2 years to see the pattern that exercise hurts me. It goes against everything we have been told, right?

        It triggered nocturnal anxiety attacks, worsened depression, the only thing that helped was Luvox. Being on AD for the first time was great actually, I could even exercise, although I would face fatigue and a little disrupted sleep. I would definitely recommend trying it.

    • I don’t know what you’re reading, but why would you say there’s no science behind it? You’ve given up yet want advice to help you not give up? Fact is, this does exist and there’s plenty of science. But the real issue for you is this: Do you have clinical symptoms of adrenal fatigue – the same symptoms that many doctors have written about? Or are you going to believe what the mainstream medical establishment tells you – that you’re fine? Do you feel fine? Start with answering those questions and only then can you move forward.

    • Adel,
      I just wanted to let you know the same thing was happening to me, and was eventually diagnosed as severe, complicated migraine aura, but almost never got a headache with it. Extreme exercise absolutely brings on these “anxiety attacks” which is really just aura symptoms. Exercise causes changes in blood pressure, hormones, body temperature and heart rate, which are all triggers. I find I can do the exercise I want if i monitor my heart rate and keep it around 165, for no longer than 20 to 30 minutes. You should defidently consider visiting a neurologist that has experience with complicated migraine auras without headache. They are apparently somewhat rare.

    • My advice for you and others with these symptoms would to get a blood test for Lyme disease and all associated co-infections with lyme. Get the lyme Elisa igG and IgM and as well as western blot. My background is laboratory medicine. Lyme can mask a host of other diseases. Considering its prevalence, I believe the Lyme assay should be ordered yearly during a physical to rule out this debilitating disease. I hope this helps!

  19. Great article Chris! I’ve experienced this first hand. I was eating low carb around 50-100 grams a day and weight training about 4-5 times per week. My weight-training has always been pretty high intensity. My workouts center around the big compound Olympic lifts; squats, dead-lifts, bench press, shoulder press, bent over barbell rows, weighted pull-ups, etc…I always try to increase the amount of weight when doing any particular lift the following session. However many days I’d have to lower the weight because I just didn’t have the energy to lift any more. After feeling so rundown and lethargic for over a year now, I finally realized that I’ve most likely been overtraining. One of the most significant things I’ve done is to increase my carb consumption. I’ve always tried to stay low carb, but since I recently started eating more of them, I feel so much better. My workouts feel productive and I no longer wake up feeling so exhausted. I used to be scared to eat too many carbs, now I’m not. I’m starting to believe that if you train hard, carbohydrates are a necessity.


  20. This is exactly what happened to me and I’m so glad to see this because it explains so much! I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue about 21 years ago. After being in a long remission, I started exercising again. It felt great. I worked up to walking 3 miles a night (5 nights a week) at a fast speed. I was doing 5k races 3 times a year. I was hiking with a friend about 6 miles once a week and biking 8-10 miles on the weekends with my son. Then it hit me like a brick. My joints and ligaments gave out. My blood pressure spiked and I was hit with crushing fatigue and a 20 pound weight gain in the matter of 2 months. No doctor was able to tell me what was wrong. I went to endocrinologists and cardiologists and everyone said I was fine! I knew in my heart it was from over exercising. This just proves I was right! Now what do I do to lose the weight and start exercising again? ( I have started gently walking again)